It feels so good to be back in Cuba! It does not come without one particular challenge, the Internet.
The people are so very friendly, the city sites so wonderful, and the colors and energy palpable. The Internet, however, slogs along at the speed of an injured slug and is extremely expensive, $4/half hour. It is what it is, but if you find us late in a blog, you’ll know why.
This island nation makes up for it in so many ways. As Arnie says, “Whatever you read about Cuba is wrong. It is not terrible; it is not Utopia.” For us, it is so rich in photographic fodder that is entwined in the people-to-people, cultural tours we lead here.
In Miami, it takes about four times as long to prepare for flying to Cuba as it does for the actual one-hour flight across the Straits of Florida to Habana. We get to the airport early so stand in line with fellow, charter-flight passengers, many Cuban or Cuban relatives who are bringing in TVs, bicycles, microwave ovens, medicines, school supplies, etc., etc. Their suitcases are all pre-checked and bubble wrapped to within an inch of their lives. It keeps the items safe from the normal airport pilfering that can happen, regardless of the country.
Our processing was painless, albeit a tad long, except for one of our group whose passport went missing somewhere between home and Miami. Fortunately, it was home and could be FedExed for next-day arrival. Unfortunately, that meant our new friend would be delayed in getting to Habana two days later. He was cheerful and pragmatic about the whole thing, and we waved goodbye to him as he took off to enjoy two days in Miami.
The rest of the group landed in Habana, and we went through customs, never as easy as one would wish in another language. Everyone’s bags arrived, and we made our way by our personal bus to the hotel. On the way, we stopped for our traditional welcome lunch at a nice restaurant in Mirimar, the high-end section of town, and our group started getting to know one another over Havana Specials (a rum cocktail) and food.
At the hotel, dollars were exchanged into CUCs, the Cuban currency for foreigners, and after getting settled in our rooms, we met downstairs and took off walking for dinner, so our group could get a feel for the city.
A special treat was in store. In addition to the scheduled brass band (excellent), The Buena Vista Social Club joined them. This group is legendary, and most of the members are what some might call a little long in the tooth. That said, their playing and singing was top notch, and we were all spellbound at this first-night treat.
Maria, dressed in lime green, Cuban-danced her way back and forth across the floor with her handsome partner who was equally stylish. She twisted this way and that, oozing sex appeal and coquettishness, a bright smile and sparkling eyes lighting up her face. Clearly, she loved to perform, as energy exuded from every fiber of her body.
Pick any European city, and laundry hanging from windows and railings is part of the scene. “But,” you say, “Cuba is in the Caribbean, not Europe.”
True, but the architecture is often so European in style. The colors, however, are pure Caribbean.
Everyone loves the vintage cars. They are everywhere, not as relics, but as an integral part of working daily life. Some are taxis, some are used for special occasions, and most are Continue reading